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Mental Health And Men

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 Mental Health And Men

It is estimated that over one million men world-wide will commit suicide. It is also understood that in the UK males are four times more likely than females to kill themselves. In the last six years there have been over 6,500 male suicides according to a Guardian report.

Furthermore, incidence data from the last century indicate that suicide rates have indeed peaked during the past economic recessions.

Notwithstanding, it has been indicated that Gay men are three times more likely to suffer from mental health issues and 4.3 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight male counterparts. In addition they suffer double the rate of depression and anxiety. Finally, 94% of young offenders are indeed male and 80-90% has mental health issues.

Another aspect to be considered is the fact that whilst the rate of deliberate self-harm in greater in the female population, it is four times more likely to lead to suicide in their male counterparts. It is further associated with alcohol, employment, financial and housing difficulties. One question is, will we see an escalation of distress and suicide in males during the current economic downturn?

It has often been regarded that male mental health has in the past been given little or no priority and in equal measure is very poorly understood area of wellbeing. In essence men are half as likely to be diagnosed with depression and are twice as likely to misuse alcohol and drugs.

To comprehend what is happening, there is a need to explore the possible reasons why there are variants between male and female mental health.

It has been suggested that according to the article ‘One compelling possibility is that what society teaches men about what it means to be a man leads us to express our pain in ways that differ from women. Among the more striking differences is that men are more likely to keep their problems to themselves. We frequently suffer in silence, and sometimes with dire consequences. Our research at Clark University in the US has shown that men who are more likely to value self-reliance and stoicism are more likely to have significant symptoms of depression; they are also more likely to report feeling ashamed of being depressed, and more likely to keep the problem to themselves.’

Understanding mental well-being and or indeed mental health are complex. There is little understanding as to what is happening and manifesting in our male counterparts.

Furthermore it has been established that 25% of the overall population will experience some form of mental health problem. However, when asked, half of company bosses estimated levels at 0% in their workforce.

Stigma surrounding mental health issues are very much an issue and its perceived effect on both employment in particularly western cultures.

According to the article, ‘boys are taught that it is better to express emotions such as anger than fear or pain and there are cultural sanctions for those who deviate from this. Depression and anxiety may get expressed as anger. Men are socialised to fix problems. As one service user put it “men deal with it – I’m not dealing with it, therefore I’m not a man”. No wonder men may have a tendency to play down their problems, overestimate their ability to deal with them and have a reluctance to seek help. Nor is it surprising that it is commonly hard for those around them to spot the symptoms.

Ultimately there has to be a change of opinion from all directions and thus education will be key in the understanding and acknowledgment of signs that are presented to us as individuals. Such signs may include episodes of not being able to engage with people, lack of concentration, changes in appetite, sleeping patterns and increase in use of alcohol or drugs.

As a society, we need to associate help-seeking with strength and courage. Media campaigns in the UK have begun to address these issues.

The effects of redundancy on men and women need consideration and employers need educating. At Clark University there are plans to establish the first centre devoted to the study of men’s mental health.

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